December 23rd, 2007
02:30 PM ET
6 years ago

Voter asks Obama about 'Muslim background'

Obama, who is not Muslim, has been trying to clear up voter misconceptions.

PLEASANTVILLE, Iowa (CNN) -– Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama was asked about his "Muslim background" by a potential voter at a coffee shop Saturday, and used the encounter as an opportunity to try to put to rest stories that he said had been "misreported."

Obama joined a group of four women in a booth to eat some pumpkin pie and sip a cup of tea. One of the women asked him how his "Muslim background" would affect his decisions as president.

"This is something that keeps on being misreported, so I’m glad you asked me," Obama, who is Christian, said.

He told them his father had lived in a Muslim-dominated village in Kenya, but “didn’t practice Islam."

"Truth is, he wasn’t very religious,” said Obama. “He met my mother. My mother was a Christian from Kansas, and they married, and then divorced. I was raised by my mother. So I’ve always been a Christian."

He also touched on the fact that he lived in the Muslim country of Indonesia for four years of his childhood.

"I didn’t practice [Islam]," Obama continued, but added that being in that area had given him "insight into how these folks think."

Just before being pulled away from the table by a staffer, Obama told the women he had been a member of the Trinity United Church of Christ for the past 15 years.


–CNN Iowa Producer Chris Welch

Filed under: Candidate Barack Obama • Iowa
soundoff (374 Responses)
  1. Not electing "Christian-in-Chief"

    What would be so wrong if his father was indeed a Muslim? Obama Barack makes it sound as if being a Muslim is a crime. This is not the kind of leader I want to elect.

    December 24, 2007 12:07 am at 12:07 am |
  2. thescoundrel

    I am not voting for Obama but it has nothing to do with his religious past. I disagree with him on issues. This country was designed so anyone- Mormon, Catholic Wasp, Muslim or even an atheist should have a chance to become a political leader, even ascend to POTUS.

    December 24, 2007 12:12 am at 12:12 am |
  3. Syed Rahman, Frederick , MD

    Barak Obama has a middle name which is very shy of using! My question is why? If one has a middle name of Hussein it is certain that he was born in to a practising muslim family. Obama is lying about his roots that he was a born muslim. He is not trustworthy to be the President of USA. We do not want another Bush in the WH.

    December 24, 2007 12:31 am at 12:31 am |
  4. drew

    good to know what he isn't a muslim.

    now, can we hear about real issues?

    December 24, 2007 12:35 am at 12:35 am |
  5. College Park, MD

    “I was raised by my mother. So I’ve always been a Christian”. What????? Having been raised by a Christian parent dose not make one a Christian; though he might be familiar with a Christian tradition, wait a minute didn’t he say his mother did not practice religion????? Any way Christianity is a confession of faith in the deity of Jesus Christ it is not hereditary.

    December 24, 2007 12:39 am at 12:39 am |
  6. Sgt.M.Bradford Afghanistan

    I am a black male serving in afghanistan and it hurts me when i hear my brethern state that "they would never vote for a person who name is barak obama".I cant but wonder is it really the name or might it be the color,and its the same jerks who who say Dr. King was a great man.Tell me America how far have we really come.

    December 24, 2007 12:42 am at 12:42 am |
  7. Albert, Detroitm MI

    The way Obama answered the question is not very convincing. He did not say whether his father was a muslim? He side tracked the question by saying that his father lived in Muslim Dominated village in Kenya but didn't practice Islam.

    He should rathers said his father is not practicing Christian or muslim. If has converted to Christainity or is christian as he could not identify himself with muslim ideology for last twenty years.

    That would be a clear answer.
    I like his confidence and direct answers in the democratic debates. but this was not a clear answer.

    Also, question about being Muslim. The challenge is there are good muslims and fundalmentalists. The problem is even good muslims never say that Koran is not good/wrong when talking treating non-muslims. The koran has such offensive things for non-muslim – it is difficult to justify it is a religion of peace unless it is rewritten – The sad part is that even good muslims never talk of re-writing Koran to remove those offensive paragraphs. Or Good muslim never tell that they should be treated as non-muslims by secular/christain governments as Islamic countries treat non-muslims. e.g. non muslim cannot go to Mecca or Medina. Then the same rule to be applied to Muslims in Christain/non muslim countries.

    December 24, 2007 12:48 am at 12:48 am |
  8. John, Vancouver, WA

    Unfortunately, Islamophobia has become a wide spread disease in America. Americans are amongst the most ignorant people in the world towards other religions and cultures. The media and the politicians are to blame for misinforming the American people. Many Americans don't know that constitution of the US recognizes many of the rights and freedoms which are cherished in Islam as a religion and as a way of life.

    What is sad about it is, Americans are not willing to even read a book to learn more, they prefer to stay in the state of ignorance. YOUR ENEMY IS WHAT YOU DON'T KNOW.

    Americans don't even want to know Islam is not the religion of Al-Qaeda and Taliban and "Wahabism" as a distorted ideology which is sponsored by Saudi Royal family (ironically America's friend) is their ideology not Islam.

    December 24, 2007 01:24 am at 1:24 am |
  9. Tom Spettigue, Cheyenne, WY

    When Obama lightens up on the Second Amendment, I'll vote for him. Otherwise...

    December 24, 2007 01:49 am at 1:49 am |
  10. Van phoenix,AZ

    so let me get this straight..his father is a black muslim, his mother is a white christian, but he is a black christian?? Seems like he has a severe identity he is obviously quite ashamed of....

    December 24, 2007 02:01 am at 2:01 am |
  11. Taylor ni Northriddge California

    Muslim, Christian, or? Does this really matters? What matters is EXPERIENCE EXPERIENCE, EXPERIENCE and Mr.Obama is lacking in this. We are in crucial times we have enormous challenges in our country and we can not put them in a Jr. Senator's hands in which he has no qualifications to handle them/ Remember, this is our country and we can not put the future of the American people in the hands of a person who represents change and hope, yet is unable to do this because for changes and hope experience is needed. Mr. Obama is just not ready and we need to make sure we vote responsibly..I think that honesty and sincerity starts from inside our soul. Mr. Obama's sincerity comes from his ambition, for if he was sincere with himself, he would know that he is just not ready to be the Next President of the United States. You need to be ready, ready to lead. It takes years of hard work to be ready. Being a 2 year Jr. Senator does not qualify one to leap frog into the white house. It takes knowledge, courage, passion, conviction and experience to lead our Country.. We can not afford to put our country in jeopardy, our lives our future. Nothing has been misreported as Mr. Obama claims, he is an admitted over indulgence of liquore, marijuana,cocaine, and on the verge of heroine these are his words..That he admitted does not make him an honest man with integrity,,its just a manipulation of the American people to make us think he is honest..Did Mr.Obama think this was all going to stay quiet, or did he think,,I better admit it before others bring it up.. Why is do people have to apololagize when we talk about this? Why do we have is it a big deal if we ask about his muslim background? Since this is all known facts, why should it be such a hush hush topic? No all this is fearful confusing and much to do about the truth. We can not vote for Mr. Obama this is our Wonderful Country!!! we can not just put it in Mr. Obama's hands and just suffer the consequences of his Abition...

    December 24, 2007 02:06 am at 2:06 am |
  12. Stacy, Baton Rouge

    I could careless about any of their beliefs. I do not believe in a superior being or religion. I think all of that should be kept out of political issues. It is bad enough that I have to hear all of the religious talk at this time of year. But atleast I try to avoid it as much as possible.

    December 24, 2007 02:37 am at 2:37 am |
  13. Angela, WPB, FL

    Can't we evaluate our candidates IQ and look at their accomplishments instead of trying to brand them as one religion or another?
    This religion thing has to go!
    It's just assigning people with false attributes they probably don't have and won't uphold when it comes time to act on them.
    It's all smoke and mirrors anyway.
    Get on with the real issues.

    December 24, 2007 02:44 am at 2:44 am |
  14. Musalia Whitting Indiana

    As a Kenyan born American I know that Obama is wrong (not a ware) by saying his father was born in a Muslim dominated village, Nyanza province where Obama father is from is 95% Christian, most Kenyan Muslim are from cost province (800 miles away). It is Obama grandfather who was a Muslim, Obama father’s polygamy practice was more of out of African culture than Muslim teaching . If anything Obama’s father failure in Kenya had every thing to do with his American influence, the Kenya of 60s and 70s was just too much for liberal thinking a Harvard PhD graduate. The guy was alcohol an indication that he was not a Muslim. In Indonesia Obama was very young and never attended a Muslim school. Just before you cast your stone how would you like to judged by the choise that was made by your grandfather

    December 24, 2007 02:51 am at 2:51 am |
  15. Sam IA

    Man, I don't know how many times or how many ways you can show a hate radio fan that thier mentor is lying to them. They will still set there and tell you he is a muslim. Most of these people casting dispersions probably couldn't get bonded to work security for the waste collection center. Get over it.

    December 24, 2007 03:16 am at 3:16 am |
  16. K L

    Did He?


    December 24, 2007 03:21 am at 3:21 am |
  17. John

    Why does Obama want to make sure that no one falsely believes that he's Muslim? First of all, because he is not a Muslim, and secondly, becuase he is already trying to break a few other barriers. To be identified as a Muslim would destroy his campaign, in light of the revulsion with which most Americans now view people who practice a literalist and narrow Islam.

    December 24, 2007 03:39 am at 3:39 am |
  18. James, Iowa

    Obama says his mother was a Christian?? That's a big lie. She was an atheist. This man will say anything to get elected, just like the Bushies.

    Obama is a liar.

    Richardson 08

    December 24, 2007 03:39 am at 3:39 am |
  19. m castaing

    What did he mean "these people"?

    December 24, 2007 03:43 am at 3:43 am |
  20. Bob, Tampa Bay Area, Florida

    This is truly insane! Clearly the damage of 911 has gone far beyond what I could have ever imagined.

    How many of you even know people whom are practicing, non-practicing, hiding, undercover, have traces, whatever you want to consider it Muslims??

    Home of the free, land of the brave!

    Vote Obama'08!

    December 24, 2007 03:52 am at 3:52 am |
  21. Alex Fresno, CA

    Obama is a Christian but his name is way too ethnic and the xenophobia that has a grip of this nation will not allow him to succeed. The anti-islam current that is running through all of us because of the propaganda fed by the "Bush machine" will keep us from voting for Obama. It is however, unfortunate that Obama will have to keep trying to convince the american public that he is indeed Christian and a safe candidate. Equally sad is that Muslims have to defend their integrity because of decisions made by their rather lackluster politicians. Kind of like me having to defend my american values with a president like Bush in office. The hippocracy is overwhelming.

    December 24, 2007 04:17 am at 4:17 am |
  22. jd, des moines, iowa

    I dont trust hussein obama's explanation on his muslim upbringing.

    December 24, 2007 04:43 am at 4:43 am |
  23. Tara, Tampa, FL

    Obama was really putting a spin on his not being Muslim. Of course he is and always has been and why would ANYONE in the United States of America be naieve enough to vote a Muslim in for our president when it's a well known fact that they say they're going to take over the US from the inside. How much more "inside" can you get then the president? Do NOT vote for Obama or we'll be wearing burkas and skirts before the first year is over.

    December 24, 2007 05:20 am at 5:20 am |
  24. Neil Schlessinger

    I already knew everything that Obama said here. I knew he was a member of Unity Church of Christ. I knew his father was of Muslim background, but not particularly religious. I knew all of this, and I planned on voting for Obama.

    Yet, after hearing Obama's cowardly duck and run here in which he refers to the 2nd largest religious group in America as "these folks", I will no longer be voting for him. Ross Perot was vilified for referring to African-Americans as "you people", and rightfully so. That Obama would refer to Muslims in the 21st Century as "these folks" is preposterous.

    You just lost my vote, Obama.

    December 24, 2007 05:51 am at 5:51 am |
  25. Chris, Ridgewood, NJ

    Unfortunately, this is a smear campaign by rivals, specifically Hillary. Of course it shouldn´t matter, but political operatives know that most Americans have a prejudice against Muslims.

    I think those same rivals are aware of the fact that America is ready to elect a Black president, but not a Muslim one.

    December 24, 2007 06:42 am at 6:42 am |
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